By Representative Sander Levin
Gov. Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans -- led by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp -- continue to repeat a widely discredited claim that President Barack Obama is dismantling work requirements for welfare recipients.
Facts are stubborn things, but apparently not as stubborn as the willingness of Romney to ignore them.
President Bill Clinton, who enacted the 1996 welfare reform law, says Romney's claim is false. Ron Haskins, the lead Republican staffer in charge of drafting the 1996 welfare law, says the charge is "very misleading." FactCheck.org says Romney's suggestions are "simply not true."The Washington Post Fact Checker gives his claim "four Pinocchios" for being blatantly dishonest. And the Pulitzer-prize winning PoltiFact.com says the Romney claim is "pants on fire" false.
Under the administration's initiative to allow states to apply for waivers to increase employment among welfare recipients, welfare funding will remain unchanged, the federal time limit on benefits will remain unchanged, and work requirements will still apply.
The only difference is states can opt to be held accountable to moving people into real jobs, rather than counting hours of activities. To obtain a waiver, a state must commit to increasing the number of people leaving welfare for work by 20 percent.
Republicans proposed, and Congressman Camp voted for, even broader welfare waivers in 2005. Romney sent a letter with 28 other Republican governors supporting a version of those welfare waivers in 2005, saying "increased waiver authority" was important for "moving recipients from welfare to work."
But now Romney has flip-flopped to oppose giving states greater flexibility to increase the number of welfare recipients moving into jobs.
I voted for the 1996 welfare law and went to the White House when Clinton signed it. I worked actively after that to address needs for any changes and to correct any flaws. I can't think of any policy more consistent with welfare reform than increasing the flexibility of the states to put more people to work.
It's probably not much of a surprise that Romney opposes this latest effort to promote work. After all, Romney opposed Obama's rescue of America's automotive industry, a step that protected the jobs of up to 1 million workers here in Michigan. Romney actually wrote an op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
He also opposes Obama's efforts to help teachers and police officers return to their jobs. He opposes putting more people to work fixing our roads and bridges. And Romney opposes providing tax relief for middle-income families if we don't also give more tax breaks to the very wealthy.
Romney's vision of economic growth is based on trying to make the super rich even richer. We tried that for eight years under President George W. Bush and it ended in the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
Obama and Democrats in Congress are focused on strengthening our economy by supporting the middle class and investing in America. We need to follow this path forward, rather than go back to the failed Republican policies of the past.
We also need to avoid blatant political manipulation of issues like welfare reform.
Congressman Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan's 12th District in Washington.